Since the creation of the Scottish Parliament the West Lothian Question – why should Scottish MPs be able to vote on issues that have been devolved in Scotland and therefore affect only England and Wales – has gone unresolved. A related question is whether MPs representing Scottish constituencies should be able to hold ministerial portfolios that cover only England and Wales. Obviously there is no any legal or constitutional bar to it – the question is whether or not a government would face a backlash from the public for doing so.

There have been occasional rumbling when MPs representing Scottish constituencies have been given ministerial responsibiles on matters that are devolved in Scotland (for example, as Transport Secretary Alistair Darling had responsibility for transport in all the constituencies in England and Wales, but not in his own Edinburgh constituency). The most recent example is John Reid’s appointment as Home Secretary. YouGov’s last poll asked specifically about whether this anomoly bothered people – 45% of people said yes, 49% said no.

However bothered people say they are, at present this is clearly a pretty minor issue in the greater scheme of things. Once Tony Blair stands down as Prime Minister though it becomes far more important, since Gordon Brown’s constituency is in Scotland – will the general public accept an MP for a Scottish constituency as Prime Minister? A new ICM poll for Sunday’s Daily Politics suggests that 52% of the public think that, post-devolution, it would be wrong for a Scottish MP to be Prime Minister.

As one might expect, in Scotland itself there is no such feeling – 75% of people think it would be perfectly okay. In South-East England though, 59% of people think it would be wrong for a Scottish MP to be PM, as do 54% of people in Northern England and 55% of people in Wales.


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